Last Record Store Day, Kirk Hammett will release his first already Solo EP, nearly four decades after making his recorded debut with Metallica. Of course, his regular bandmates weren’t always so accepting of extracurricular activities – bassist Jason Newsted was notoriously ousted from the band after his requests for some time off to focus on side project Echobrain were met with. postponed.
But that was then, and this is now. As the guitarist himself points out, it would take a lot to focus on the megalithic machine that is Metallica in 2022 and certainly more than four-track EP portals, however fantastic and enticing a record might be. The project began as a single song, titled Maiden And The Monster, which Kirk recorded for the soundtrack to his It’s Alive! exhibit of horror movie memorabilia. Like a suitably monstrous creation, it took on a life of its own, blending a cinematic atmosphere with orchestral sweep and a touch of heaviness that has likely already seeped into its DNA.
Here, Kirk is talking to Kerrang! on Portals, the impact of his sobriety and Metallica’s Pavlovian response to Ennio Morricone…
How did the Portals EP originate from It’s Alive! exposure?
“The first song [Maiden And The Monster] comes straight from the show. With the second song [The Djinn] I tried to write something really simple, but when I sat down with the initial idea again, it became a big thing because the ideas just kept coming. I took it as, ‘Okay, there are musical ideas that resonate and it wants to become more of a musical idea.’ With enough ideas, it becomes a song or an instrument or whatever. So the same thing happened with The Djinn like with Maiden And The Monster and I just threw my hands up and said, ‘Wow, I don’t know what’s going on, I have two instrumentals and I’m just sitting on it.’
“Then when I met Edwin Outwater [the conductor who worked on S&M2] I played it for him and said, ‘Let’s get together and write some more stuff like this’, he was so into it. We went through all of that and it became High Plains Drifter and The Djinn. It wasn’t something where I sat down and said, ‘Okay, solo album, about time!’ I don’t take myself seriously! And I’m not that smart, seriously I’m not. I write music and shit happens… and it falls into the category of shit happens (Laughs). But now that it’s happened, I’ve tasted this and this kind of autonomy, I say to myself: “Why not? I have the blessing of the whole band on this, especially James [Hetfield] and Lars [Ulrich] and so that’s okay, now I have something else cool to do. Edwin and I have every intention of continuing to collaborate as well, because the results have been so good.